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Help with food itinerary for LA visit this week

Hi, my BF and I are visiting LA and San Diego from NY over Memorial Day weekend and want to squeeze in as many great meals in our few days/nights as possible! We'll be staying at the Intercontinental in Century City for 2 nights before driving down to SD. We'll also have one more late night in the LAX area (after Angels game) when we return from SD. I've read so many posts on the great ethnic eats in LA and am now torn between the many choices. If fellow chowhounders can help me in narrowing my choices, that would be so very appreciated!

Night 1 (around 9:30pm): For Korean BBQ - Soot Bull Jeep vs. AYCE at Gui Rim/Mu Dung San. BF can eat A LOT and loves the idea of endless amounts of meat =). However, if Soot Bull Jeep is decidedly better in taste and quality, I think we would go with that over the AYCE.

Day 1: Thinking of visiting Santa Monica, Beverly Hills (Rodeo Drive), Hollywood, and Chinatown (Olvera St). Would lunch at Asanebo be out of the way? Would you recommend another sushi restaurant (e.g. Sushi Zo, Sushi Mori??) that is logistically closer and as good/comparable in quality? We love fattier/oily sushi - toro, aji, salmon, yellowtail, anago, and scallop are amongst some of our favorites. We are not as crazy about cooked dishes. Our budget is around $75-100 pp (no alcohol as he will be driving).

Also, do you think it's possible to squeeze in Taco's Baja Ensenada for a midday snack? Not sure what the traffic is like at around 3.

Night 2: Early dinner at Beverly Soon Tofu before Dodgers game at 7:40pm. BF is also intent on saving room for a grilled dodger dog and beers =). Is Sunset Blvd a good place to stop by for drinks after the game?

Day 2: Thinking of leaving Century City for SD at around 9 or 10am. Is there a good place for breakfast in the area or along the way? Would love to do dim sum (in SGV or Chinatown) but it seems most restaurants are not open until 10/11am.

Night 3: After Angels game (around 9:30pm/10pm on night of Memorial Day) - Any good restaurants still open at this time around the area (from Anaheim to, and around Westin LAX)? Was hoping to try good pho but not sure any are open late. If not in the area, is Father's Office or Monte Alban worth driving up to from LAX?

Thank you all for your help!!

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  1. It's a large city, geographically speaking, so you might want to double-check your distances as you plan your days. For example, on Day 1, you'll be covering quite a bit of territory. Personally, I would skip the visit to Chinatown -- it's nothing much to look at. The Chinatown in LA is a part of history because the real epicenter of Chinese culture has moved to Monterey Park, which is a 15-minute drive from downtown (without traffic). You could go there if you want, but it's really just a collection of restaurants and grocery stores, albeit with wonderful food. It's a fairly utilitarian place, though, so it's not much to look at.

    On the night you're going to Dodger Stadium, I wouldn't go to any heroic efforts to save room for the Dodger Dog. Call me some sort of Abe Froman wannabe, but the Dodger Dog just doesn't hold a candle to the sausages I grew up with in the midwest. I'd instead suggest having a bigger meal before (and maybe after) the game. There is always room for beer, so I wouldn't worry about spoiling that appetite. After the game, the Sunset Strip is a fine place for grabbing drinks, but bear in mind that there will be velvet ropes and dress codes at the cooler places. What type of bar are you looking for? A scene? A view? Something from old LA? Celebrities?

    On the morning of your drive down to San Diego, you've got a few choices for breakfast. It depends what you're looking for. Personally, I'd have a little snack before hopping in the car and then in Orange County, get off at Brookhurst and check out Little Saigon. You'll find great Vietnamese food down there. That's my personal M.O. when I travel down to San Diego. If Vietnamese doesn't do the trick for you, then I'd suggest either BreadBar or Clementine for a nice breakfast spot before heading down to SD. Both are very close to your hotel.

    On the night after the Angels game, I would suggest making the drive up to Monte Alban, just because it's my favorite place in LA. I'd suggest calling them to see their hours for that day, but I suspect they'll be open because they're always open. They work hard. If they're not open, then you might have good luck with the taco truck on Lincoln Blvd (south of Rose) in Venice or, just a block north of that, the taco stand called La Playita. Both are first rate places specializing in different types of Mexican food. Experience tells me that nothing in NYC really competes.

    You asked a question about Korean food. I would personally skip the AYCE place. My favorite place is Sa Rit Gol, but Soot Bull Jeep is no slouch.

    You also asked about sushi and I would suggest Sushi Zo or Kiriko. I think they are both better than Asanebo.

    2 Replies
    1. re: glutton

      Thanks glutton for your suggestions! I am now leaning towards Kiriko over Asanebo as it is closer to the areas we'll be visiting. I actually really like the reviews I've read on Sushi Zo on this board but it seems they only serve sushi (no sashimi?). While I prefer nigiri, BF actually prefers sashimi. Do you know if Sushi Zo serves sashimi?

      Ah yes, taco trucks =). Also one of our food goals that I forgot to mention. Besides the one on Lincoln Blvd, is Taco Zone Truck a good one? Thinking it might be a good post-Dodger game snack since it's pretty close to the stadium.

      For drinks, we're into the more laid-back bar/lounge type places that offer a good selection of beer and fun crowd (we're in our late twenties). We're not into scenes or lines or celebrities.

      Also thanks for the idea of stopping in OC on our way to SD! I've been trying to figure out a way to get pho on our list! Do you have any favorites for pho in OC? I've read that Pho 54 and Pho 79 is pretty good.

      1. re: hunnibee714

        Pho 79 is good, but the best (in my OH-so-humble opinion) is Pho Thanh Lich, kitty-corner from Pho 79 at Brookhurst and Hazard.

        I believe both are open quite late. There was a topic about late-night eating in Little Saigon recently.

    2. Personally, I think Asabebo is the best Sushi choice, I prefer it to Kiriko and Sushi Zo. However, it is a tad out of your way, being in the San Fernando Valley.

      I agree, the Dodger Dog really isnt all that. At Doger Stadium, I go to the Gordon Biersch stands for Garlic fries and thier beer.

      Around LAX, for better beer without driving to FO, go to the Sheraton Four Points-right in the exact area as the airport. The bar/restaraunt there has good beer and nice food. Pann's coffee shop is also near there..not fancy schmancy, but loved by many hounds!

      1 Reply
      1. re: Diana

        Thanks Diana. Haha, just the thought of garlic fries already have me salivating! I will definitely look for the Gordon Biersch stands when we're at the Dodger Stadium. Thanks!

      2. >>>"Also, do you think it's possible to squeeze in Taco's Baja Ensenada for a midday snack? Not sure what the traffic is like at around 3."

        From the westside from where you are coming from on Day 1, getting to Taco's Baja Ensendada even during the afternoon will be rather time consuming. I would pass.

        >>>"Day 2: Thinking of leaving Century City for SD at around 9 or 10am. Is there a good place for breakfast in the area or along the way? Would love to do dim sum (in SGV or Chinatown) but it seems most restaurants are not open until 10/11am."

        Dim sum will be out of the question. If you don't mind do a diner-type breakfast, try Pann's, which is sort of the on way to SD if you are leaving from Century City area. www.panns.com

        Contrary to what others have said, I think it's worthwhile to get a Dodger dog, just make sure it's grilled and not steamed. It's not the end-all-be-all of stadium eats, but if you're at Chavez Ravine, why not at least try one.

        1. For either before or after the Dodger game, skip the taco truck -- you are very close to perhaps the best taco stand in SoCal. It is Carnitas Michaocan, on North Broadway at the N/W corner of 19th, just north of Chinatown and almost due east and down the hill from the stadium. Good carne asada, even better al pastor carved from a rotisserie spit. I like the burritos (I get mine w/o beans) but they also do tacos, quesadillas, and special nachos with meat as well as cheese, guac, and sauce. But the thing that is special there, that makes it rise to prominence and excellence, is their salsa roja. Thin, brick-brownish red, spicy, complex, hot -- it elevates everything it touches. They will give a few thimble-size containers with burritos and tacos, but they also sell small cupfulls that are well worth having for the rest of your trip. Order at one window, pick up at another, covered patio seating -- go either during the day or when the area is still crowded immediately after the game (it can be sketchy late at night). Burritos are big and about $5 each.

          1. Hi hunnibee714,

            If you really want to get in some Dim Sum on this trip there are a couple possibilities (depending on how badly you want it :) -

            1. For Day 2, you could go to NBC Seafood in Monterey Park. It opens promptly every morning at 8:00 a.m. and is of the traditional Carts of Dim Sum rolling through the aisles. Since it's all cooked and ready to eat, you could finish Dim Sum in 30-45 minutes easily and be off to San Diego.

            Note that NBC Seafood is a shell of its former self (it used to be one of the best Dim Sum restaurants in So Cal). It's not "bad" nowadays, but with the excellence of places like Sea Harbour and Elite, and NBC's own decline, it's now merely "decent / OK" Dim Sum, but authentic and frequented by many locals.

            2. Or, if you really want to try great Dim Sum no matter what, you could get to Sea Harbour on Day 1 at 9:45 a.m. sharp (at the latest) and get in with the first wave of people. If you manage the amount of dishes you order, you'll get a nice sampling of little, well-made Dim Sum, without stuffing yourself, and then eat your Sushi lunch a little later (say, ~1:00 - 1:30 p.m.). (^_~)

            1 Reply
            1. re: exilekiss

              isnt Sea Harbor the place with a big rooster on the top?

              I have to agree with NBC ... used to be GREAT, now it is good...i wouldn't push away the chopsticks...

              Good eats!

            2. If you are going to San Diego on Day 2, SGV/Chinatown might not be practical, particularly coming from Century City. There are two options for dim sum (not as good as what you could get in the good SGV places) that would be not too far off route, VIP Harbor in West L.A. and Sea Empress in Gardena but they do not open until 11 a.m. so the timing might not be good for you. A third option for dim sum, depending on what you are planning to do down in San Diego is Emerald's--again, not up to SGV standards but not bad. For a non-dim sum breakfast, close to your Hotel, I recommend John O'Groats.

              John O'Groats
              10516 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064

              Sea Empress Seafood Restaurant
              1636 W Redondo Beach Blvd, Gardena, CA 90247

              Emerald Chinese Seafood Restaurant
              3709 Convoy St, San Diego, CA 92111

              Vip Harbor Seafood Restaurant
              11701 Wilshire Blvd Ste 13, Los Angeles, CA 90025

              5 Replies
              1. re: New Trial

                While the SGV would be out of the way, Chinatown from Century City would be no problem to get to, and then getting on the freeway and heading on down to San Diego.

                1. re: Servorg

                  Perhaps my response is too laden with my own biases for driving in traffic, but driving from Century City to downtown and then onto San Diego all between 7-10AM on a weekday morning just seems like a recipe for frustration. Sadly, I would scrap the dim sum ambitions and go with something close to the hotel or on the way to SD.

                  1. re: glutton

                    The OP will be driving through OC about lunch time - why not do Little Saigon and ingest heavily on some pho, bahn mi, or bahn coun? Leaving around 9-10AM on the southbound 405 shouldn't be too bad as long as there are no major snags - just avoid it around 7-8:30AM...

                    1. re: glutton

                      I gotta say, I agree. Traffic will be hell, too.

                      1. re: glutton

                        Actually the OP is mentioning that it's over Memorial Day Weekend (this weekend :). So for either Sunday or Monday (Memorial Holiday) it shouldn't be bad at all.

                  2. Thanks all for the suggestions and advice! Based on what you've suggested, I think the revised plan would be as follows:

                    Night 1 - Korean BBQ at Soot Bull Jeep (mainly bc of the charcoal)

                    Day 1 - Start day with Santa Monica and Venice Beach. Omakase lunch at either Kiriko or Sushi Zo. I've read that the lunch omakase at Kiriko is a good deal. Would you suggest going to Kiriko for the quality for the price or would you suggest Sushi Zo for the better quality fish (we really enjoy fresh fish and don't care for cooked dishes)?

                    Night 2 - Beverly Soon Tofu before Dodger's game. Carnitas Michaocan after the game.

                    Day 2 (Sat) - Head down to SD from Century City at 9am ish and stop in Westminster for pho (pho thanh lich?) and banh mi (banh mi che cali).

                    Night 3 (Monday) - After Angels game, late dinner at Monte Alban.

                    Day 3 (Tuesday) - Before 1:15pm flight back to NY, per exilekiss's dim sum recommendations, i was thinking of dim sum at Seafood Harbour at 9:45am. Do you think 45 min each way to and from Seafood Harbour and LAX on a Tuesday morning (9am-11am) is doable? Otherwise, should I try NBC seafood instead since it is slightly closer and has ready to eat dim sum in carts?

                    14 Replies
                    1. re: hunnibee714

                      Sounds like a good plan to me. Keep in mind that there are multiple Che Cali's in Westminster. (My favorite banh mi bakery is Banh Mi Cho Cu.)

                      1. re: hunnibee714

                        If cooked dishes are not of interest, I would definitely go with Zo over Kiriko. For Tuesday morning, I think 45 minutes in either direction might be overly optimistic, particularly with post-Holiday traffic both on the roads and at the airport.

                        1. re: New Trial

                          I disagree, since the OP is talking about getting the omakase lunch special at Kiriko. It is very good sushi and an excellent value. Unfortunately, you no longer get ice cream with it. Kiriko will also do an omakase sashimi if you request, but they will prepare an entire sashimi platter before serving. If one of you is doing the omakase sushi, which is served piece by piece, you might want to ask them to either start the sushi before the sashimi is served or see if they can do sashimi a few pieces at a time.

                          Since you seem set on sushi, I would recommend that you go to SGV on Saturday morning (it's a quick shot down the 10 freeway) and have dim sum. Then take the 5 to San Diego. I work in Century City and often have to travel to San Diego for business. I often take that route precisely so I can make a dim sum stop.

                          You might consider trying Vietnamese on the return from the Angels game and having brunch on Tuesday at Monte Alban. I believe it opens at 8 am.

                          ETA: According to Monte Alban's menu, they serve breakfast to 11. But you might consider calling and seeing if they would do any of the lunch items earlier in the day.

                          1. re: Jwsel

                            I meant to say "Since you seem set on dim sum," not sushi.

                        2. re: hunnibee714

                          On Day 3, getting to and from Century City to SGV for dim sum and then to LAX for a 1:15 pm flight will be kind of tight.

                          If you really wanted to do it, I would suggest dim sum at 9 am., that way you get out by 10, and get to LAX before 11, leaving you enough time to check-in, etc.

                          Oh, and it doesn't really matter as far as distance and time between Sea Harbour and NBC -- Sea Harbour isn't that much farther (and it's closer to the fwy exit than NBC which cuts down on the actual road time, even though mileage-wise it is farther). If you're going to drive out to SGV, go to Sea Harbour.

                          1. re: hunnibee714

                            Hi hunnibee714,

                            I would second Jwsel's advice to fit in Dim Sum / Sea Harbour on Saturday morning before your SD drive if you can. From Sea Harbour (it's a few blocks north of the 10 Freeway), just go 10 East to 605 South and you'll hit the 5 South that takes you straight to SD.

                            On Tues morning, if you got in at 9:45 a.m. at Sea Harbour, you'd get in with the first wave, and be out of there by ~10:30 - 10:45 a.m. (depending on how much you want to eat). That'd place you at LAX by ~11:30 - 11:45 a.m. depending on traffic.

                            1. re: exilekiss

                              Trying to get from Century City to SGV during rush hour on a Tuesday morning will be interesting. Give yourself enough time. Like everyone else, I say do the dim sum on Saturday morning. And stay closer to the west side on Tuesday. LA traffic can be unpredictable, and 45 minutes might be a stretch for that distance. If you are trying to get back to the airport after dim sum, take the Century Freeway (105), and not the Santa Monica Freeway (10).

                              1. re: E Eto

                                I drive from the westside to SGV during all kinds of hours, and my advice is forget about dim sum on Tuesday morning. 45 minutes is not possible during morning traffic from Century City where it takes at least an extra 20 minutes to get on the freeway. You should go on Sat, and try to leave Century City around 8 am for Sea Harbor in Rosemead, then take exilekiss's advice on driving direction to SD.

                                1. re: E Eto

                                  Ya, if you are going to dim sum in SGV, take the 10w to 710 south which will take you to 105w... that time in the morning you gonna hit traffic...but there is always the car pool lanes.... that might help. IMO, 45 minutes is not realistic...especially going to catch a flight.

                                2. re: exilekiss

                                  Since Sea Harbour cooks dim sum to order instead of using carts, would it be realistic that hunnibee714 could get in and out in an hour? I also think 45 minutes to an hour to LAX (even using the 710 to 105 as AteTooMuch recommend) is cutting things close. One accident or road construction could completely tie things up.

                                  1. re: Jwsel

                                    We've done it at Sea Harbour regularly. There's a pause where you're sipping tea and chatting, your stomach is grumbling from looking at the other tables' dishes, but then the food starts coming out rapid fire. Depending on what and how much you order, it usually comes out in two to three waves. Most of the standard dim sum dishes come out relatively fast, at least that has been our experience - we always shoot for 10AM. I think the important thing is, if you're pressed for time, order everything you want on the first go. If you start ordering more things after the initial order, and if they're busy (I've never seen anything but a full house when we've been), this will extend your stay. This happened on our last visit, where we ate with close friends whose husband hales from SFO. He wanted SFO-style chow mein with crispy noodles - we misinterpreted what we thought would be something along the lines of chow mein. Not wanting to disappoint we reordered specifically for, "leong min wong," which is a pretty standard Hong Kong-style noodle dish. After about 20 minutes, it came out and we were close to being done but we decided to loosen our belts another knotch and dig in. This extended our stay by about 10-20 minutes...

                                3. re: hunnibee714

                                  You really can't count on getting from SGV to LAXafter a dim sum feast SATRTING at 9:45 by the time you'll need to.

                                  Remember, you'll need at least an hour before your flight to check in. Since it is the Tuesday after Memorial day, and LAX will be jam packed, it wil probably take more than an hour to get through everything, and you should at least plan on it being a long time (if you get lucky it won't be. at LAX, don't count on being lucky)

                                  Say you got to SGV abd walked into sea harbor at 9:45 on the dot. hopefully, there is no wait for a table (on a tuesday, that might be OK) You take a good hour or two to sup on dim sum, as you are trying for variety andwant to try as much as you can. You get back on the freeway. going east west/ west east is murder. It takes forever. The area around LAX is even worse.

                                  45 minutes is not going to happen.

                                  Do Dim Sum on a different day, and instead, have yourself a good breakfast at Pann's near LAX, enjoy the Googie architecture, pretend you're in a Tarantino movie, then, if you have time, grab an early beer and a sandwich to go at the Sheraton four points and have no problem getting through the packed airport .and to your flight.

                                  1. re: Diana

                                    Heres a suggestion. If you *have* to have dim sum, and it can *only* be that tuesday morn... (god knows why or how you gonna "rush" a dim sum meal)... just call in and order it and eat it to go. Munch away while fighting traffic. Ya, it aint the same thing, like you miss 98% of the fun of it, but at least the palate/brain get sum! =)~

                                  2. re: hunnibee714

                                    I agree with several here about skipping dim sum that Tues morning. It's not the distance but the TRAFFIC, it'll make you insane. You'd be worried the whole time, and it'll ruin your meal.

                                    But I would be heartbroken about missing dim sum if I were you. The only thing I can think of is to do dim sum Saturday morning--drive from Century City won't be bad if you leave early. Before 9 would be ideal, because Sea Harbour gets crowded. THEN take the 10 all the way out to the 15, and head South on the 15 instead of the 5. This will save you a lot of time, particularly with crazy holiday weekend traffic. BUT it won't take you through Orange County so you'll have to trade your Vietnamese lunch for FABULOUS dim sum.

                                    But it's not a bad deal.

                                  3. Thanks all for the info on the traffic situation and alternate sugguestions. Based on your input, I agree that Tuesday morning will probably be too tight for dim sum. So I think we'll try to do dim sum on Saturday morning instead. If we do trek out to Sea Harbour, are there other goodies nearby that we can pick up to snack on later (I think there is a Bahn Mi Che Cali in SGV also)? I figure if we're going to make the trip there, we might as well make the most out of it =).

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: hunnibee714

                                      I would stop by the San Gabriel Supermart and hit Yum Cha for some goodies to take to eat later, then rove the aisles and get some really great asian snack foods from the snack vendor and such.

                                      1. re: hunnibee714

                                        Hi hunnibee714,

                                        Yes, there's a Bahn Mi Che Cali about ~5 minutes (or less) away from Sea Harbour. :) At the light just north of Sea Harbour (Valley), take a Left (heading West) and the Banh Mi shop is on your Left-hand side a few blocks down.

                                        There's also a variety of ~so-so Boba Tea Shops and stuff along Valley Blvd. as well, and if you head down a bit further (Valley & Del Mar corner) there's the big 99 Ranch Market / Plaza with various stores and the big Chinese Supermarket.

                                        Banh Mi & Che Cali
                                        8450 Valley Blvd, Rosemead, CA 91770